• Ward


    • RP IPA: /wɔːd/
    • US IPA: /wɔɹd/
    • Rhymes: -ɔː(r)d

    Origin 1

    From Middle English ward, from Old English weard ("keeper, watchman, guard, guardian, protector; lord, king; possessor"), from Proto-Germanic *warduz ("guard, keeper"), from Proto-Indo-European *wer- ("to heed, defend"). Cognate with German Wart.

    Full definition of ward



    (plural wards)
    1. (archaic or obsolete) A guard; a guardian or watchman.
      • 1590, Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, III.xi:no gate they found, them to withhold,
        Nor ward to wait at morne and euening late ....

    Origin 2

    From Middle English ward, warde, from Old English weard ("watching, ward, protection, guardianship; advance post; waiting for, lurking, ambuscade"), from Proto-Germanic *wardō ("protection, attention, keeping"), an extension of Germanic stem *wara- "attentive" (English wary, beware), from Proto-Indo-European *wer- ("to cover"). Cognate with German Warte ("watchtower"), warten ("wait for"); English guard is a parallel form which came via Old French.



    (plural wards)
    1. Protection, defence.
      1. (obsolete) A guard or watchman; now replaced by warden.
        • William Shakespeare (1564-1616)the best ward of mine honour
        • Edmund Spenser (c.1552–1599)The assieged castle's ward
          Their steadfast stands did mightily maintain.
        • John Dryden (1631-1700)For want of other ward,
          He lifted up his hand, his front to guard.
      2. The action of a watchman; monitoring, surveillance (usually in phrases keep ward etc.).
        • 1590, Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, II.vii:Before the dore sat selfe-consuming Care,
          Day and night keeping wary watch and ward,
          For feare least Force or Fraud should vnaware
          Breake in...
      3. Guardianship, especially of a child or prisoner.
        • 1485, Sir Thomas Malory, Le Morte d'Arthur, Book V:So forth the presoners were brought before Arthure, and he commaunded hem into kepyng of the conestabyls warde, surely to be kepte as noble presoners.
        • William Shakespeare (1564-1616)I must attend his majesty's command, to whom I am now in ward.
        • Edmund Spenser (c.1552–1599)It is also inconvenient, in Ireland, that the wards and marriages of gentlemen's children should be in the disposal of any of those lords.
      4. An enchantment or spell placed over a designated area, or a social unit, that prevents any tresspasser from entering, approaching and/or even from being able to locate said-protected premises
      5. (historical, Scots law) Land tenure through military service.
      6. (fencing) A guarding or defensive motion or position.
    2. A protected place.
      1. (archaic) An area of a castle, corresponding to a circuit of the walls.
        • 1942, Rebecca West, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, Canongate 2006, page 149:Diocletian ... must certainly have derived some consolation from the grandeur of Aspalaton, the great arcaded wall it turned to the Adriatic, its four separate wards, each town size, and its seventeen watch-towers...
        • 2000, George RR Martin, A Storm of Swords, Bantam 2011, p. 78:With the castle so crowded, the outer ward had been given over to guests to raise their tents and pavilions, leaving only the smaller inner yards for training.
      2. A section or subdivision of a prison.
      3. An administrative division of a borough, city or council.
        On our last visit to Tokyo, we went to Chiyoda ward and visited the Emperor's palace.
        • John Dryden (1631-1700)Throughout the trembling city placed a guard,
          Dealing an equal share to every ward.
      4. (UK) A division of a forest.
      5. (Mormonism) A subdivision of the LDS Church, smaller than and part of a stake, but larger than a branch.
      6. A room in a hospital where patients reside.
        • 2011, December 16, Denis Campbell, Hospital staff 'lack skills to cope with dementia patients', Many hospitals have not taken simple steps to lessen the distress and confusion which dementia sufferers' often feel on being somewhere so unfamiliar – such as making signs large and easy to read, using colour schemes to help patients find their way around unfamiliar wards and not putting family mementoes such as photographs nearby.
    3. A person under guardianship.
      1. A minor looked after by a guardian.
        After the trial, little Robert was declared a ward of the state.
        • 1918, W. B. Maxwell, The Mirror and the Lamp Chapter 22, Not unnaturally, “Auntie” took this communication in bad part. Thus outraged, she showed herself to be a bold as well as a furious virago. Next day she found her way to their lodgings and tried to recover her ward by the hair of the head.
      2. (obsolete) An underage orphan.
      3. An object used for guarding.
        1. The ridges on the inside of a lock, or the incisions on a key.
          • 1603, John Florio, translating Michel de Montaigne, Essays, II.1:A man must thorowly sound himselfe, and dive into his heart, and there see by what wards or springs the motions stirre.
          • TomlinsonThe lock is made ... more secure by attaching wards to the front, as well as to the back, plate of the lock, in which case the key must be furnished with corresponding notches.
          • 1893, Arthur Conan Doyle, ‘The Resident Patient’, Norton 2005, page 628:With the help of a wire, however, they forced round the key. Even without the lens you will perceive, by the scratches on this ward, where the pressure was applied.

    Origin 3

    From Middle English warden, from Old English weardian ("to watch, guard, keep, protect, preserve; hold, possess, occupy, inhabit; rule, govern"), from Proto-Germanic *wardōną ("to guard"), from Proto-Indo-European *wer- ("to heed, defend").


    1. (transitive) To keep in safety, to watch over, to guard.
      • SpenserWhose gates he found fast shut, no living wight
        To ward the same.
    2. (transitive) To defend, to protect.
      • ShakespeareTell him it was a hand that warded him
        From a thousand dangers.
      • 1603, John Florio, translating Michel de Montaigne, Essays, II.3:they went to seeke their owne death, and rushed amidst the thickest of their enemies, with an intention, rather to strike, than to ward themselves.
    3. (transitive) To fend off, to repel, to turn aside, as anything mischievous that approaches; -- usually followed by off.
      • DanielNow wards a felling blow, now strikes again.
      • AddisonThe pointed javelin warded off his rage.
      • I. WattsIt instructs the scholar in the various methods of warding off the force of objections.
    4. (intransitive) To be vigilant; to keep guard.
      • 1590, Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, II.viii:They for vs fight, they watch and dewly ward,
        And their bright Squadrons round about vs plant ....
    5. (intransitive) To act on the defensive with a weapon.



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